Freshman Year, a debut YA graphic novel by Sarah Mai, was picked up by Jessica Anderson at Little, Brown/Ottaviano to be published in the winter of 2024. Described as a book pitched at fans of Check, Please! and Heartstopper, this coming-of-age story inspired by the author's life chronicles the humor and anguish symptomatic of the college transition, all through the eyes of a burgeoning comics artist. Sarah Mai's agent's Claire Easton and Lori Nowicki at Painted Words, negotiated the deal.
Sarah Mai is an illustrator, cartoonist, and writer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has a degree in English Literature from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where she developed a passion for graphic novels. She is also drawing the middle-grade graphic novel Cool Code from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
In 2019, Little, Brown was directed to expand their graphic novel list for years going ahead and appointed Andrea Colvin, formerly of Lion Forge as editorial director, Graphic Publishing to do just that. Publishing new fiction and nonfiction graphic novels for a range of ages, from early readers to young adults. Little, Brown has been doubling-to-tripling their comic book publishing line each scheduled year since then, with Mai one of a number of beneficiaries of this publishing plan. It's another sign of major growth in the graphic novel market in bookstores, libraries, book fairs, and the greater range in content and comic book styles being published. It's a long way until the USA gets to the kind of breadth and depth enjoyed by Japan, Korea, or France, but it is one of a number of significant moves in that direction.
Lori Nowicki formed Painted Words in 2006; a boutique literary arts agency focused on representing diverse talent. Lori has brought her background in education to the field of publishing, helping aspiring authors and illustrators tell their stories. In her nearly thirty years of representing artists, she has mentored up-and-coming talent and worked with award-winning and bestselling creators on a range of projects in the publishing industry and beyond. Claire Easton began her publishing career at Painted Words in 2012 as an assistant and worked her way up to Agent. She is currently seeking picture book submissions from author-illustrators. She loves stories with humor and heart, relatable characters, unpredictable endings, and books that reflect the diversity of children's experiences.